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Shining a light on attorneys and groups who help others pro bono

By Psyche Pascual
Staff Writer

A peace officer who became an attorney after 30 years on the police force. Advocates for Korean Americans living in isolation and victims of human trafficking. A law firm that undertook complex asylum cases on behalf of transgender immigrants.

These are just some of the people and groups who’ll receive the President’s Pro Bono Service Awards this month. This year, seven people and two law firms are slated to receive the coveted awards when the State Bar hosts its Annual Meeting in San Diego Sept. 11 to 14. Here’s a list of the recipients:

Distinguished pro bono service

Alison H. Hong

Alison H. Hong, of San Francisco, practices employment law as an associate at Jackson Lewis P.C. But since 2011, she has organized and supervised two pro bono clinics a year.

A pro bono committee co-chairwoman of the Korean American Bar Association of Northern California, Hong expanded the clinics by contacting Korean American churches to find more isolated members of the community. She also reached out to the Korean community and paired attorneys who only speak English with law students who speak Korean. As a result of Hong's efforts, the association has a new platform to serve a community that lacked access to legal services.

Individuals from a law firm

Charles Crompton

Charles Crompton, of San Francisco, devoted more than 300 pro bono hours in 2013 while working as a partner at Latham & Watkins LLP. He worked with GLIDE, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Swords to Plowshares.

At GLIDE, he helped more than 100 clients with unlawful detainer and immigration matters. Crompton also helped organize and chair a new committee of lawyers to handle pro bono matters for veterans who rely on Swords to Plowshares for support.

This year, he withdrew from Latham & Watkins to work full time on legal services, including a free drop-in legal clinic he established at GLIDE.

Michael T. O'Halloran

For 25 years, Michael O’Halloran, of San Diego, worked as a certified bankruptcy specialist, helping people with serious financial problems, helping the unemployed, veteran, homeless, mentally ill or those with HIV/AIDS with their bankruptcy problems.

In 2013, he stepped up his pro bono work, contributing more than 120 hours to 35 pro bono clients as part of his work at San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, the San Diego Veterans Stand Down and the Women’s Resource Fair.

O’Halloran has also consulted on the credit education program offered by the bankruptcy court, lectured to high school and college students about credit and debt, taught counselors of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic and mentored numerous new bankruptcy lawyers.  He has served as a volunteer mediator in the bankruptcy court mediation program for 25 years.

Law firm branch offices

Manatt, Phelps and Phillips
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP's

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP’s 25-attorney office in Orange County receives kudos for its work in taking on complex asylum cases on behalf of transgender immigrants and developing its expertise in LGBT asylum cases.

In fact, by contributing more than 2,300 hours in 2013, the office increased its pro bono participation to the Public Law Center by 150 percent. Each month, Manatt provides at least two lawyers to the Central District's Santa Ana Branch District Court Pro Se Clinic to advise in civil rights, intellectual property, foreclosure, employment and social security appeals.

Manatt also assisted nonprofits and small businesses through the Public Law Center Community Organizations Legal Assistance Project and took on impact litigation to preserve $54 million dedicated to an affordable housing project being developed by Habitat for Humanity in Santa Ana.

McDermott Will & Emery LLP’s office in Los Angeles will also receive a pro bono award.

In 2013, the 62-attorney office of McDermott contributed more than 5,000 hours to Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Public Counsel, Alliance for Children’s Rights, California Lawyers for the Arts and the California Innocence Project.

As part of Bet Tzedek’s Transitions Program, McDermott assists developmentally disabled adults. It also helped Bet Tzedek develop its Advance Planning Clinics, creating end-of-life planning materials for clients at the clinics as well as Holocaust survivors served through Bet Tzedek’s national Holocaust Survivors Justice Network. 

In 2013, McDermott took on 14 eviction defense cases through its work with Public Counsel and the Shriver Housing Project. McDermott is currently Bet Tzedek’s co-counsel, representing 23 tenants in a housing matter. 

McDermott has partnered with the National Immigrant Justice Center on immigration appeals before the Ninth Circuit and the U. S. Supreme Court and with Pepperdine’s Global Justice Program, recently sending a lawyer to Uganda to assist in representing prisoners involved in the country’s first plea bargaining pilot program.

Recently admitted

Thomas P. Feledy

Thomas Feledy, of San Carlos, had already worked for 30 years with the San Francisco Police Department. But instead of retiring and going on vacation, he sought out pro bono opportunities, helping tenants facing homelessness at 41 separate housing clinics and assisting more than 120 clients.

Now that he’s an attorney, he’s already contributed more than 200 pro bono hours, preparing answers to unlawful detainer complaints, demands for jury trial and fee waivers, conducting landlord depositions and attending formal settlement conferences with clients negotiating with landlords.

Lindsey E. Martinez

Lindsey E. Martínez, of Costa Mesa, contributed more than 250 pro bono hours in 18 matters to the Public Law Center in Orange County in 2013.

A fourth year associate at Snell & Wilmer, she helped clients who were victims of domestic violence and violent crimes obtain legal status and permanent residency through U-visas and adjustment of status applications. Martínez serves on a Public Law Center committee that encourages young attorneys to do pro bono work.

Martínez appeared before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals representing those seeking asylum, withholding of removal and Convention Against Torture relief because of their persecution and torture in their home countries.

A fluent Spanish speaker, Martínez could communicate with her clients to help them tell their traumatic experiences to the court. She assisted four victims of human trafficking to obtain visas, allowing them remain in the U.S. and also help four clients' restitution receive significant restitution payments.

Solo practitioners

Keith David Hiatt

As a recently admitted lawyer, Keith David Hiatt, of Sunnyvale, leads a busy life: He’s also a solo practitioner and a doctoral student in jurisprudence and social policy at the University of California Berkeley.

Hiatt has volunteered hundreds of hours for two organizations: Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. His work at both organizations includes promoting safe and healthy housing conditions, unlawful eviction defense, protection of tenants against unlawful landlord behavior including discrimination and retaliation, recovery of security deposits and consumer protection cases.

At Community Legal Services, Hiatt also serves as a consulting attorney at the biweekly housing clinics, which are staffed by Stanford Law School students, and at the Volunteer Attorney Program which runs clinics to help clients with consumer law issues.

Ciaran O'Sullivan

Ciarán O’Sullivan, of San Francisco, will also receive an award for his pro bono work in trusts and estates litigation.

O’Sullivan has provided pro bono legal services through local bar associations, including the Alameda County Bar Association’s Volunteer Legal Services Corporation, the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Justice & Diversity Center and its Federal Pro Bono Project, which assists litigants in federal court who do not have legal representation.

O’Sullivan handles eviction cases as well as serves as a resource to other Justice & Diversity Center pro bono attorneys who represent tenants in cases complicated by trust and estates law issues. In 2013 he contributed more than 175 pro bono hours to litigation in state and federal court, and at both the trial and appellate levels.

Get more information on the pro bono award recipients and the work that they do, including a special message from State Bar President Luis J. Rodriguez and Chief Justice of California Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye.